tv [untitled] September 20, 2010 1:30pm-2:00pm PST
child. my father used to take me to the court house to watch the lawyers practiced law when i was 8 years old. i believe in the mission. i believe -- i am a true believer. i think those images influence children. we have one here in the front row. some to serve as prosecutors first and then become criminal defense attorneys, but many of us want to defend the constitution and those rights from the very beginning, from jump. i think we do not just me to believe it in our hearts, we need to profess it publicly. i do believe, though, that jerry is right. it is not enough to talk about it amongst ourselves. it is a larger public dialogue that needs to happen in terms of the resources, the jury pool, and that means talking to people
who identify more with victims. we now there are one in 100 people behind bars. that means one in 100 people knows somebody connected to the criminal justice system. that is a tremendous opportunity for us. that means there are people in every sector of society who identify with our cause. that is when people start to understand the import of the public defender. i know very well not mind me saying this, but for the last 20 years, they have been talking about the innocent man who has been wrongly accused, and everyone thinks that is a terrible tragedy. nobody would think that that is right in america. but their message release started to sing when they shifted. we were working with them on this, at court tv, and i was the first reported to be
covering the innocence project on a national basis. the message really started to sing when they talked about victims, believing for 19 years that the right guy was behind bars and then learning that the wrong guy was behind bars. twice victimized. when the defense bar can start to work with victims rights movements. it is very hard to get the defense lawyer to think in those terms, but i think that is where we need to go. >> lawyers share some of the responsibility of their poor image, no question about it. there are some good ones, some bad ones. a very sad thing for me is that the law has become a media event, as opposed to a profession. there are lawyers to prostitute themselves on television, lawyers, talking about cases
where they really do not know what is going on. they do a disservice to the public and to the profession. we need -- if lawyers are going to participate in the media, and they should -- whenever i thought there was something negative, i responded. between 70% and 80% of the prospective jurors believe he was guilty, before a single witness was called. so the media does affect things, but lawyers have to take responsibility, too. lawyers have to rise above their ego. that principle which motivated them to become lawyers in the first place. it is not like we do not bear responsibility for our own image. >> we have some questions from
the audience that we would like to ask. there is so much more we could talk about in terms of remaking our image, if we have to, and our responsibility to make that change, it is, in fact, it is needed. first question, based on the discussion so far, i believe you are putting the cart before the horse. if the victim industry is so profitable and civilians, our clients, how do we as the attorney, change our image? shouldn't we be trying to change the public's perception of the system as a whole? >> i was trying to address that. dalton spoke to it as well. fih+-- jonathan spoke to it as. we have to make the á discussioa
broader discussion, so that people understand how it affects their daily lives, how it affects the way government works. is there going to be money, our state parks going to be open, money for education? what does this say about the state of california, where i believe the largest union is not the teachers' association, but the correctional officers association? what does that say about a society? when people find out about that, they are stunned. but that is the reality. that is what is playing on people's minds, fear, prejudice, ignorance. >> this also points to the fact of what we have to do in each individual case. that is what you're up against. and when you are in trial, the priority is your client, which
is different from broadcast journalism, television drum up. -- drama. >> but you cannot turn a blind eye to it. >> that question is deeply troubling when you look at certain cases. there are certain cases where it is a no-win situation. the robert blake case, when jerry managed to do was truly a lesson for trial lawyers across the board. the casey anthony case, now in florida. you have to think to yourself, how does she win a case like that? any casewh/vñ that received nationwide attention is lost before you walk into the courtroom. it then becomes your job to turn around. there is a presumption of guilt
on any client and then you add the nationwide attention, it is insurmountable. >> so we have a responsibility to speak to the public? you have to figurer want to say in who you can say it to, but it seems like you are say we almost have a responsibility. >> in most cases. >> aside from the attitude of public defenders, is there something inherently more challenging about being a defender in the limelight than being in the day -- a d.a? >> it is everything we have talked about. there is the inherent bias against us as a criminal defense lawyers.
added on top of that is the fact that we have this position of incompetence, somebody who is new that does not know what they're doing.db& and that our clients are probably guilty or there would have hired a real lawyer. it is amazing, considering those biases, that we speak to anybody in the press. why would we go to that source when our image has been so abused in? >> but how do we change if we do not go to the source? >> we have to, but you have to overcome that initial resistance. >> years ago i was involved in the case and one of the question was, what you think about prosecutors? wonderful. what about criminal defense lawyers? one person wrote just one word, sleazy.
when i met him i said, we have never met, i did not take it personally. he said, oh, i meant it in a good way. [laughter] people don't appreciate how important jury selection is. judges often totally lose track of that because they want to move these cases. particularly in the immediate case, but in every case. >> one of the members of the audience would like to know, how do get the public to understand our great work which involves the phantom of the guilty, and sometimes an acquittal for some?
>> the medical profession accidentally butchers about 100,000 people a year. kills them. yet, people love doctors. this is a wonder to me. i had the pleasure of convicting four doctors in my time as a prosecutor and my only regret is not convicting more of them. somehow, the public loves doctors. i do not know if there is a position in the government, the surgeon general, who represents the medical profession as a government, do good service. there is nothing like that for our profession. the ama does a lot better work and our bar association does. when jerry is representing robert black, he is working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, giving zealous advocacy for
his one client. when the public defender is handling 400 felonies, they do not have time to remake their image. it seems to me the biggest problem we face is to recognize we have a problem. the problem is there is not an association or spokesperson who represents the position. it is too much to ask the individual lawyer or public defender's office to do it, but a group of office is working together to pool their resources, to educate the public as to what they do in the interest of justice might actually start to change attitudes. >> last question. what effect has the "war on drugs" specifically, the rationalized profiling of drug dealers done to those parties involved and to the criminal
justice system? someone mentioned "the wire." >> everybody loves to talk about post-racial america. but i think most folks in this room would agree that we are not in post-racial america yet. this is almost another panel to talk about race in america, the media, the intersection of crime in america and race. there is, i think, a perception,
criminal justice circle. we all know who is behind bars but the american, does not really seem to know who is really behind bars and why they are there and whether they really belong there. gary is right, -- jerry is right, we use the criminal justice system as a social service center for problems that need to be addressed in other ways. [applause] i think that if people were told by the folks in my business that this is not an economically efficient way to do things, they might come around to doing things another way. but there are too many people interested in doing it the way that we did -- a way that we do it to get there. people in my business are not
necessarily familiar enough with the criminal justice system to understand what it is the way it is. most of us do not come from this business, we come from the business of making news. i think that is a very difficult question. "the wire" in and of itself is a difficult and controversial question since that program could generate a panel conversation, and i know it has and does. i think the public defender's role, just on the issue of drug crime and violence and reform, reform of the drug laws in the country -- i can only speak to the state of new york where i am. i think that is one place in which -- maybe when we talk about remaking the image of the public defender, we take it piece by piece is an issue by issue. maybe that is the issue where we
start. if the task seems to great at first, in terms of resources, the case load, maybe we go issue by issue and that is the place to start, especially in the bay area and san francisco, where the public would be more receptive to reform and hearing from public defenders on a given issue. >> anyone else? with that, i want to thank all of you and association has a media mmittee, and they're going to be looking at the issue, but we need a lot of people to get involved. four or five months ago, tom donald approached me. he is a director and directs commercials. he had a proposition that he would create a professionally produced public service announcement about public defenders, and how could i possibly say no to that very
generous proposition? so i'm going to ask tom to say a few words about how he got the idea for this public service announcement. i think you will agree when you see it, it is unique. that you have not seen anything like this on television. tom. [applause] >> i'm not an attorney. i'm a director and a film maker. i actually have a ball cap to prove it. [laughter] so i will put it on. we all learned this from steven spielberg, who popularized the use of baseball caps. jeff is right. i have been a longtime fan of jets for a long time. first, i want to thank him for the opportunity to make this peace. people in my position often talk about giving back, and it is usually worth about the price of the words, and nothing more. in this case, i have known jeff for a long time, and i know the good work that he does, and i
really wanted to make the contribution that i could. we talked for a long time about themes for this commercial, and we decided -- kind of mutually, i think -- that the resumption of innocence -- i heard the panelists in both panels talk about this repeatedly -- is really about the highest ground that his office to take in a broadcast television commercial. but beyond that -- i have forgotten her name -- very articulate young lady -- we were talking about post-racial america and how all of us collectively and singularly, the people on television and media, would like to believe that is in fact the case, and yet we all know -- i think everyone in his room at least can recognize that is not the case. really, this commercial is the marriage of those two ideas, the marriage of the concept -- that the concept, but the bedrock principle in our code of justice, which is the presumption of innocence, and the recognition if you well that
we have a long way to go to combat stereotypes, prejudice, and outright bias, not only in the judicial system, but in our american society, and that is what resulted from the coming together of those two ideas you will see on the screen. [applause] how do you like it so far? kind of compelling, isn't it? [laughter]
♪ >> show me your hands. [applause] >> thank you. thank you very much. [applause] >> wasn't that great? just the incredible job that tom and his crew did. we are going to be making his public service announcement available to public defenders all over the state and all over the country. we are going to be rolling it out in the next couple of weeks,
so you can watch it on your to. we have lunch for you in the next room over. the eligibility of hispanic room is on the same level. simply walk over in that direction, and we'll be back here right at -- 1:15 or 1:30? right at 1:30. so we see that we have one>> go, and welcome back. hope everybody had a nice lunch break. it is now my pleasure to introduce a managing attorney of the public defender's office reentry unit. she is in charge of overseeing the work that we do in helping clients and former clients get back on their feet and lead productive lives. part of her job is overseeing the program was started 10 years ago that helps individuals clear their criminal records.
the clean slate program. [applause] >> good afternoon, and welcome back. i am with the public defender's office, and i do oversee the clean slate program. but for those of you who do not know, it was san francisco's original reentry program that was started over a decade ago. at the time, we were helping a few hundred people each year, and today, we fell over 2000 people -- we held over two dozen people clean up their criminal records. our goal is to help people have a dignified return from the criminal justice system. -- we help over 2000 people clean up their criminal records. the panel today is entitled "paving the road to reentry: clean slate and state law and criminal record reform." the discussion comes at a time
when there is an unprecedented amount of people incarcerated. these individuals are returning from prison at the rate of 600,000 per year. in california, that rate is 115,000 per year. in california, over 1 million people have a conviction record, and one in five individuals have an arrest or criminal conviction. so we have to ask ourselves -- is criminal record reform an urgent priority for california? and if so, what is being done? and how can we go further? let's hear what our distinguished panel has to say. our first panelist is dr. steven richardson, a renowned author and professor of criminal justice at the university of wisconsin oshkosh. i have to say that dr. richards
probably will not authorize this, but i am going to make a plug for the book he has written. i want to say he has written the book "convict criminology." another book called "behind bars." and "beyond bars." so check it out on amazon. we also have with us the policy co-director of the national employment law project. and eliza hirsch is the supervising attorney in the clean slate pride is at the east bay community law center. welcome, panelists. i want to tell the audience that while we are having this session, if you have questions, feel free to write them down, and the ushers will get them some you. at the end of the discussion, we will have a question and answer session. dr. richards, it is my
understanding you have some personal experience in this area. i would ask you to share your experiences with us and tell us about the barriers that exist for people who have a criminal record. >> i'm a convicted felon. i'm an ex-con. and i'm a professor. i'm the leader of the convert criminology group. if you just go to google and google convict criminology, you will find our website. our group was actually started many years ago by professor john irwin, who was at a san francisco state university for 30 years. john recently passed away. john, even after he retired in 1995, for nearly 15 years helps me to organize the convicts criminology group. there is now 30 of us. we are all ex cons, ph.d., and professors at different universities.
because i'm a convicted felon, i should say i went to federal prison for nine years. >> [inaudible] i came to a public forum, which included a lot of attorneys, to try to rectify these matters. >> [inaudible] >> i am here. i will be outside for five minutes with this information. [inaudible] >> thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you.
thank you. >> continue, dr. richard s. -- dr. richards. >> [inaudible] >> we love the excitement. this is all intentional. >> i'm happy to be in san francisco, and that kind of brings me to the point i want to say. this morning, we were in the courtroom, and we have lawyers, public defenders talking about legal cases, talking about the roles they play. what i think has been lost here, and maybe even this gentleman kind of raised it, is what happens to these defendants? what happens when they go back into the court, into the lock up after they have pled guilty? about 95% of them plead guilty.
you know that they are being forced to plead guilty. you all know it. it is like there is a gun to their head. i call it the terror of arithmetic. they are being threatened with 100 years, 50 years, 20 years -- you know what that does to them. they go back to their jail cells. those numbers bounce around in there had. after a week or a month or six months or a year, a year-and-a- half, they plead guilty. and you know as public defenders, one of your main jobs is to make them plead guilty. and i know you do not want to hear that, and i know that you think you're doing the right thing for your clients, and a lot of that is because you do not want to know the rest of the story, which is what happens to them later. for example, myself, i was a student at the university of wisconsin. i had no criminal record. i got arrested in a marijuana
conspiracy case. no possession, no sale. i was threatened with 150 years. 150 years. i'm from madison, wisconsin, which is a town not unlike san francisco. they cannot put me on trial in madison in wisconsin, so they took me to the south of carolina, and they put me on trial in strom thurmond federal courthouse in charleston, south carolina. across the street was the confederate cemetery. from the courthouse, they flew two flags -- the u.s. flag and the confederate battle flag, which was the state flag of south carolina. from the court room, i could look out the window and seaport sumter in the distance -- see fort sumter. fort sumter. they put me on a case with no